Practical evaluation: the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones

Practical evaluation: the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones
Practical evaluation: the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones
When Fatboy Slim named his record You’ve come far baby It was in no way related to the technological evolution of the headphones. Dated references aside, for some reason, this album was the first thing that came to mind when I remembered Sony’s audio journey from the late 70s to the present day.

Continuing Sony’s advancement in the audio age, the WH-1000XM4 are the freshest Sony headphones on the market. These XM4s are the successors to the WH-1000XM3s, and in my original review of the XM4s, I suggested that they “may redefine smart audio.” And you know what? You are damn smart.

To build

My test kit included the gray XM4, a flight adapter, a USB-C charging cable, a functional gray carrying case, and an AUX cable.

The headphones are made of high quality plastic and have flexible, padded ear cups that can be rotated to fit inside the case. They are quite heavy at 254 g. So if you hit the head a lot, you might find that they move around quite a bit – or they may fall off your head.

The ear cups can feel a bit stuffy after hours of use. Therefore, let your ears breathe regularly. The protective cover is made of relatively sturdy plastic covered with fabric. Take care of the headphones and your case and you’ll be fine.

How they work & functions

I’ll quickly translate Sony’s minimalist, visual approach to user instructions: double-tap the right earcup to pause / play, swipe up – increase volume, and vice versa. Swipe left to skip back one track and right forward. Double tap the right ear cup to answer a call and double tap to end a call.

One of the main features of these headphones is speak-to-chat. It’s a great feature that pauses the music when it hears you speak and then uses the microphone to amplify your voice as well as the voice you are speaking with.

This was one of the features I loved the most – and one that is a gem. You still have to apologize. Could you do that again (or a variation on it) because you missed the first thing someone said to you, but it means you don’t have to keep taking off your headphones or stopping the music.

There is one downside, however: if you are in the habit of singing along to your favorite songs, you may want to turn off speak-to-chat. There’s nothing like having your headphones turn off when you get sucked into the chorus of your favorite song.

Sony has finally built a multipoint Bluetooth 5.0 connection into its headphones so you can connect to two different devices at the same time.

Sony also says the Bluetooth range is about 10 meters – I managed about 16 meters outside one end of the house before the sound was turned off and only seven meters outside the other end of the house.

The headphones also have a sensor that turns off the music when you remove the headphones. This is a useful feature that helps the battery life be around 30 hours with noise canceling turned on and around 200 hours with noise canceling off. Charging from flat to full takes a few hours.


The DSEE Extreme Sound Engine from Sony is the successor to DSEE HX. That means that a dash of AI in the processor tries its best to scale music to the highest possible resolution – with varying results, but in general I’ve found that it improves even the most terrible 128kbps MP3 files significantly.

Unsurprisingly, the sound quality is excellent in the low, medium, and high ranges, ranging from 4 to 40,000 Hz. I couldn’t help it when it came to music, games, or TV shows on Netflix.

The XM4 has one major drawback: external noise. When the volume is either loud or medium. I couldn’t find a way to fix this and it’s super unfortunate because for me it’s a huge blow to otherwise good headphones.

After testing through Zoom and Hangouts, I found the microphone to be of average quality. You can get clearer sound through a dedicated business or gaming headset, but the sound isn’t bad.

Sony | Kopfhörer Connect App

I mentioned the Sony headphones app in my review of the WF-1000XM3 earphones, but the XM4s have some notable features associated with them – namely the ability to turn speak-to-chat on or off, and the ability to connect to two devices at the same time (e.g. PC and telephone). You’ll know if this works when you hear a voice saying the second bluetooth device is connected.

The voice assistance function can be programmed into the Custom button on the left auricle, so that you have direct access to Alexa, Google Assistant, the Google App or Siri.

I won’t go into the other features in detail, but you’ll find an adaptive tone control that detects whether you’re walking, running or sitting, noise-canceling optimization, ambient noise control, the equalizer, battery life, and other settings.


For around $ 500, these headphones are available in black and gray. They are a fantastic part of the kit with good sound and technology. Noise bleeding was a problem for me, but if you don’t mind when noise comes out of the mugs and carries the tune in the wind, the XM4s are worth a look.

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